#TBT: Senior Citizens Day & Individualized Pharmaceutical Care

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As part of our “Throwback Thursday” blog series, we’re taking a look at a topic that’s currently in the news and tagging it with previous research, videos or commentaries in a relevant way. As the saying goes, “what’s old is new again” – and we hope you enjoy our wonky twist on #TBT.

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan declared today, August 21, as National Senior Citizens Day. In observance, the National Pharmaceutical Council (NPC) is raising awareness about a key health care issue among many senior citizens—individualized pharmaceutical care.

The percentage of people living in the United States who are over age 65 is higher than ever before. In 2011, they comprised 13 percent of the U.S. population, and by 2060, are projected to account for at least 20 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Aging Americans face a unique set of health care challenges, such as arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, depression, or combination of these chronic conditions, which makes it more difficult, and important, to find the right treatment options to better their quality of life.

Researchers and medical providers have long known that different human bodies react differently to drugs and treatments. A “one drug fits all” approach does not work for older patients because they have specialized health care needs that accompany aging (i.e., physiological changes). These needs require pharmaceutical care to be individually tailored to each patient based on his or her specific health status.

To avoid risks of sub-optimal pharmaceutical care for older Americans, NPC teamed with Thomas Jefferson University to explore the pharmacological, physiological and epidemiological reasons why therapy for this population must be personalized. The 2000 report, “Why the Elderly Need Individualized Pharmaceutical Care,” (and our Thursday Throwback pick) presents hypothetical vignettes illustrating how uncoordinated pharmaceutical treatment can result in compromised care. Although the findings are more than a decade old, they still ring true today:

  • The elderly have higher prevalence of multiple diseases so they receive more prescriptions and see more physicians who then have to coordinate care;
  • An older body can react very differently to medicines than a younger one because of changes in metabolism and organ functions; and
  • The effects of a drug vary more in elderly individuals than in younger patients.

The good news is that pharmaceutical innovation is continuing to increase at a rapid rate, allowing for treatments that are specific to an individual patient. Such treatments can enhance older patients’ quality of life while reducing hospitalizations and caregiver stress.

See additional NPC work on aging and individual patient differences, and learn more about the importance of older Americans living a healthy life at the Alliance for Aging Research’s website and the Gerontological Society of America’s website